The smoke and mirrors are gone. Here to share profound vulnerability with their latest record, Imagine Dragons’ Mercury – Act 1 proves that the band can go beyond their previous hits’ success and maintain creativity while exploring the depths of life.
Imagine Dragons’ fifth album Mercury – Act 1 serves as lead singer Dan Reynolds’ chance to contemplate his life, the people with whom he surrounds himself and the demons trapped in his mind. Just as the minimalistic album cover depicts, Reynolds has fallen down the rabbit hole and has trapped himself in a disorienting, introspective state of pain. Although the record begins by expressing utter despair and regret in “My Life,” the album ultimately reminds listeners that life is not a linear experience, and although it may be a hilly battle, eventually everything will be alright.
Mercury – Act 1 excels in mimicking the ebb and flow of life. From overcoming addiction to evaluating personal relationships, the album tells a moving story of a person dealing with the multitude of factors that have influenced their life. The way the album easily transitions back and forth between raw pain and expressions of love or self-worth reminds listeners what it means to be human.
Toward the end of the album, Reynolds finally starts to consider the world around him, transcending his personal domain. He was lost in his headspace earlier in the record, but he later encourages listeners to “take a look outside, it’s a beautiful day,” with a newfound, optimistic perspective. Here, the tone of Mercury – Act 1 largely shifts toward a more positive note, suggesting that the former pain and suffering was essentially necessary to lead to this enlightenment about the universe and the future.
Musically, Imagine Dragons stand out from other popular artists. The band’s use of experimental musical techniques and vocal shifts force listeners to internalize the meaning of its lyrics. In “Lonely,” Reynolds laments about his solitude, and by using the counterpoint technique, he makes the harmonies of two sets of lyrics interdependent while maintaining disconnected rhythms. This method nuances Reynolds’ loneliness as not that of a bitter recluse, but as a person simply struggling to connect with others. Instead, the song imitates the overwhelming sensation of being alone in a sea of people, each following the same harmony of life yet living out different rhythms.
Notably, with rock and heavy metal legend Rick Rubin producing this album, he has not only pushed the band to be more honest and emotional but also has helped the traditionally pop-rock band embrace industrial rock. Through captivating pitch shifts, “Giants” mirrors the arduous trek of overcoming addiction: Reynolds smoothly shifts between melodic singing and excruciating screams to showcase this phenomenon. The musical accompaniment remains unchanged throughout the song, depicting how life continues regardless of internal suffering.
Later, on “Cutthroat,” Reynolds screams to release all his sentiments of worthless self-pity. It is after this point that Reynolds reaches enlightenment: Finally, he can begin to consider more than his personal bubble and truly experience all the wonders of the world.
Although Mercury – Act I succeeds with its innovative production, the album falls short lyrically. Many of its songs struggle with repetitive lyricism, making it easy for listeners to lose interest. Despite how “Wrecked” and “Follow You” help underscore the album’s journey on individual bases, the record is much better appreciated if listened to in order.
While the lyrics may be redundant, the exceptional musicality of Mercury – Act 1 emphasizes Imagine Dragons’ unique brilliance as a band. The album serves as an important reminder that no matter the mode in which one expresses themselves, utter honesty is important to achieve a better understanding of self.